Encouraged to “pull out a can of spinach” and “put an end” to toleration of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF), messengers to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) annual session pulled out their ballots and approved a new budget structure that eliminates any option for contributing to CBF.

The action came Nov. 12, during discussion of a proposal to scrap the four cooperative giving plans the BSCNC has offered for more than a decade.

The initial proposal, from the Cooperative Program Giving Committee, would have retained an option by which churches could designate 10 percent of their gifts to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF).

Matt Williamson (right), pastor of Oak Forest Baptist in Fletcher, offered an amendment to eliminate the CBF option, saying the BSCNC should not partner with an organization that might send new converts to a church that does not teach inerrancy. “I will die on the hill of inerrancy,” he said.

Eric Page, of Victory Baptist in Columbus, said keeping the option would imply that the BSCNC tolerates CBF. Like the cartoon character Popeye, he said, the convention should “pull out a can of spinach and put an end to it.”

The proposal also called for funding for theological education at North Carolina Baptist divinity schools, budgeted at 10.9 percent of the current Plans B and C, to become a sharply reduced two percent option. The proposal was approved with that option intact. The BSCNC is currently in the middle of a two-year budget cycle, so the new structure will not take effect until 2010.

On the previous day, messengers approved the first part of a two-year overhaul of the convention’s Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws. It reduced the length of the amended sections by about one-third, reportedly to increase clarity and decrease redundancy. Amendments also removed Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC) from its position on the BSCNC executive committee, relegating it to observer status with an ex-officio seat on the convention’s board of directors, and finalized a change in relationship between the BSCNC and five Baptist colleges, which will now be known as “affiliated institutions.” In the new relationship, the schools will give up direct funding from the BSCNC and take full control of appointing their trustees.

Having largely expunged WMU-NC from participation in Baptist life, convention leaders announced a new women’s ministry called “Embrace.” Allan Blume, president of the BSCNC board of directors, made no mention of WMU-NC as he introduced Phyllis Foy (left), who chaired a task force appointed to develop the new program.

Foy expressed thanks for the “joy” and “privilege” of leading the task force. Foy said the program will lead women to live in intimacy with Christ, to serve Christ through the local church, and to promote discipleship and missions.

Embrace will seek to educate women to “study and apply God’s word” and to establish family Bible study in their homes, while also equipping women for “kingdom work” both locally and globally, she said. Despite the obvious overlap with WMU-NC’s mission tasks, officials insist that Embrace will not seek to duplicate the work of WMU-NC.

Messengers were also introduced to “North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministries” (NCBAM), a new ministry of Baptist Children’s Homes that was initiated after the departure of Baptist Retirement Homes from the BSCNC fold. Michael Blackwell, president of BCH, said the new ministry will be “nonresidential” and “noncompetitive” with the ministries of the Retirement Homes.

Blackwell said the program will be a practical and personal ministry that will work through churches and associations to offer educational services, quality information, and practical assistance for senior adults.

Neither Embrace nor NCBAM required approval from messengers. Messengers did vote, however, to transfer about $870,000 in escrowed funds to the new NCBAM program. The funds were originally budgeted for BRH, but messengers had voted the previous year to hold them in escrow while negotiations with BRH continued.

Rick Speas, pastor of Old Town Baptist in Winston-Salem, was re-elected as BSCNC president. First vice-president Leland Kerr and second vice-president Phil Ortego declined to run for second terms.

Ed Yount, pastor of Woodlawn Baptist in Conover, was elected as first vice-president. Yount was chair of the Giving Plans Study Committee that recommended the return to a single plan. Mark Harris, pastor of First Baptist in Charlotte, was elected as second vice-president. Harris is a member of the Biblical Recorder board of directors, and a former president of the board of trustees for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. There was no opposition for any of the positions.

The meeting opened with an appointment service of the International Mission Board Nov. 10. Thirty-eight missionaries were appointed, including 15 from North Carolina.

Mark Dever, pastor of Capital Hill Baptist Church and one of the SBC’s most outspoken proponents of Calvinism, preached the convention sermon Nov. 11.

In his executive director’s address, Milton Hollifield pledged that the BSCNC will be a “Christ centered, gospel focused ministry that is grounded in the local church,” while declaring a desire “to re-work, streamline, and refocus the energies of this Convention to the
needs of the churches.”

Attendance at the meeting continued a multi-year trend of sharp decline. About 2,125 messengers registered, compared with 2,547 in 2007, 2,662 in 2006, and 3,200 in 2005. The trend has been downward since 1990, when 6,400 messengers attended.

In a lively exchange during budget discussions Nov. 12, Vic Ramsey of Moyock Baptist made a motion that he said he would vote against. Ramsey moved to amend a motion to set the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO) goal at $2.1 million, asking that the portion designated for associational partnerships be deleted. Ramsey said he supports associations and would not want to see them lose funding. But, he said, the associations are not “directly related” to the BSCNC, and their staff hires are not subject to BSCNC review. That was the argument officials used in 2007 to oust WMU-NC from the NCMO, he said.

Ramsey said he hoped his motion would fail, and in doing so “repudiate the policy” used to justify removing WMU-NC from the offering. Steve Hardy, chair of the budget committee, said the associations should be treated differently because the BSCNC’s governing documents call for it to work through the associations.

The motion was overwhelmingly defeated, after which Ramsey moved that WMU-NC be reinstated in the NCMO, since the messengers had failed to uphold the policy that had been used to eliminate WMU-NC from the offering. That motion received a scattering of support, but also failed by a wide margin.

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